Back in June, Oregon State Senator Peter Courtney introduced a bill to ban horseracing in that state. While it has yet to gain traction, we certainly applaud the senator’s bold, courageous action – to my knowledge, the first of its kind in the nation. In any event, as fully expected, the racing people and their apologists are none too pleased. And, as fully expected, they are punching back with disinformation. But the commissioners of Josephine County – the site of Oregon’s sole commercial track, Grants Pass – have scaled new, risible heights.

The following letter was sent to the Oregon Senate. Enjoy.

June 9, 2021
To: Senate Rules Committee
Re: Josephine County Objects to SB871 (Horse Racing Ban)

Josephine County, as the owner of the racing facility that hosts Grants Pass Downs, objects to SB 871.

Because of horse racing, racehorses generally lead good lives. Race horses nurse from healthy mothers, sleep in secure and comfortable settings, play with each other and people, eat well-balanced diets, get expert veterinary and dental care, and receive copious human love. Racehorses love to run and to participate in a structured routine at which they are the center of attention. Beyond that, it is impossible to overstate how much horse people love their racehorses.

It is true that horse racing involves risk. But the benefit that horse racing provides to both horses and people far outweighs that risk. Horse racing is highly regulated by both the Oregon Racing Commission and by its own industry participants. A ban on horse racing would not improve the lives of the horses who obviously love the sport, or of the people who love racehorses.

Please enter this letter into the legislative record for SB 871 and all other proposed legislation that pertains to horse racing.

[signed by the three commissioners]

Immediately after the 3rd race at Prairie Meadows July 16, jockey Daniel Ruiz Amaya was seen “hitting his horse [2-year-old] ‘Marty James’ in the face with the riding crop.” Two days later, a hearing was held, with the stewards relaying the following:

“Path rider Tina Sackett testified that as Amaya was crossing the finish, his horse was trying to buck. As Amaya was pulling his horse up, he then jumped off. The horse stopped and allowed Amaya to walk up to him. Amaya then struck the horse with his crop on the nose and again higher on his head.

“In addition, the BOS have received a written statement from maintenance worker Clark Matzen stating that he saw Amaya get off his horse and hit his horse in the middle of the face with his crop, and heard Tina holler, ‘You can’t do that!'”

So what do you think? After administering two (punitive) whacks on the head, should Amaya, like Amber Cobb before him, ever be allowed around a racehorse – with a whip in his hand, no less – again? Prairie thinks so. In fact, the enablers there didn’t even sideline this animal-abuser for a single day – his “punishment” a mere fine.

We’re incessantly being told that the racers “love” their horses, viewing them as just more children. Question, then, for the PM stewards: If someone snapped a whip across your (human) child’s face, what do you suppose your reaction would be? How many years in prison do you reckon that person would spend? Case closed. Again.